|FORM-IDABLE: Dolly makes his Bafana debut v Sudan last year|
PICTURE THIS: Saturday in Angola's Benguela Province, South Africa's men in green surging forward with Keagan Dolly and Kermit Erasmus, the PSL's in-form front-runners, leading the crusade for World Cup qualification.
Even as the pain of his Telkom KO semi-final defeat sunk in on Saturday night, SuperSport United coach Gordon Igesund had time to mention the name on everybody’s lips: Keagan Dolly.
With disappointment written all over his face, the former Bafana Bafana coach knew exactly what he was saying: “The big difference tonight was Dolly. He was fantastic for Sundowns.”
And as Gord’s nemesis Pitso Mosimane celebrated reaching the final against Kaizer Chiefs on December 16 - yes, that’s right, Reconciliation Day - he too grasped that particular nettle: why is 22-year-old Dolly, perhaps South Africa’s best player, consistently ignored by Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba?
Dolly actually made his debut for the senior side against Sudan in AFCON2015 qualifiers last season, but he has been used as an Under 23 player ever since, with some effect. Since that debut he has made the loan-delayed R7m move to Sundowns from Ajax Cape Town and he appears to go from strength to strength despite the leap to Tshwane.
But with the crucial two-legged World Cup qualifiers against Angola coming up in Benguela on Saturday and Durban next Tuesday, Dolly remains out of the Banana squad despite starring for Mosimane’s Sundowns all season.
Shaun Barlett told me on Sunday no discussion has taken place over Dolly’s U23 commitments. What is clear is, Dolly could play against Angola AND participate in the 8-nation Olympic qualifying tournament in Senegal later this month.
On top of all this came Saturday’s news - kept quiet since last Thursday - of Itumeleng Khune’s knee injury which will require surgery this week, putting the Kaizer Chiefs No1 out of Mashaba’s plans.
And it has to be asked: If Tower Mathoho was too sore to take a penalty in the Soweto Derby shoot-out on Saturday, can we expect him to play 90 minutes at the Ombaka Stadium on Saturday?
Up front, Tokelo Rantie made an all-too-brief Premier League debut when he came on as a late substitute for Bournemouth against Newcastle on Saturday. But that hardly compares to the work done by unpicked Kermit Erasmus in the PSL of late.
The idea of going in to the Angola games without the in-form Dolly and Erasmus seems ridiculous for a nation so short on real, young talent. Especially with defensive mainstays Khune and Mathoho in trouble.
The opposition? At 99, they’re ranked below South Africa (75) by FIFA but Angola have a well-funded local league and put Bafana out of CHAN (which is restricted to players from their domestic leagues) just last month. Though Thabo Senong appeared to run the show and they did manage a 2-1 away win after an awful 0-2 home defeat at the Rand Stadium, it's clearly not going to be a cake-walk.
Angola’s home-based players warmed up for the South Africa games with a four-nation tournament against DRC, Zambia and Namibia over the weekend, but they will call on an extra six European-based players for the World Cup qualifiers.
They have their own Dolly - Dolly Menga (Tondela FC of Portugal) - plus Djalma Campos (Genclerbirlije, Turkey), Clinton (Sport Charleroi, Belgium), Buatu (Waasland Beveren, Belgium), former Oldham star Kussunga (now in Switzerland) and Adão (Sion, Switzerland) to add to their homegrown stars.
Mashaba offers defiance: “The last time we beat Angola, you could see that they were not happy at all, they were very uncomfortable with a loss to us.
“They said to us, no we’ll get you next time and even before the CHAN game, their officials said now its payback time and they beat us.
“So this is going to be a very tough game for us against Angola again, so we’ll need strong boys with characters when we get there.”
But without a win in EIGHT competitive games - the draw in Nigeria then three at AFCON 2015, two at home in the COSAFA Cup and two in AFCON 2017 qualifying - words and friendly results are not enough.
Shakes needs to consider form not old favourites or agent recommendations. The thought of Dolly and Erasmus on the rampage should be foremost in his mind.